Raybon Kan Q&A
Raybon Kan, star of Diagnosis: Death took some time out from his recent move to the UK and performing his stand up show at the Edinburgh Fringe to answer some questions sent in by fans.
How did you feel when you first read the script? The concept of a creepy comedy in a hospital sounds quite offbeat. Is it something you're used to in acting?
Three questions! I’ll take the third one first. Acting is like pretending, or living a lie, so I figure I’ve had plenty of practice at that. I’ve never liked hospitals or medical stuff anyway, so it wasn’t much of stretch for that to be horror. And as for the script, I co-wrote it, with Jason the director, so when I first read it, my feeling was mainly a feeling of amazement that we’d written so many pages.
Are there any extra bits on the DVD ?
I think so. But if there aren’t, just pretend the film ends ten minutes early and call the rest “deleted scenes.”
How long have you and Jason Stutter been working together? How did the writing collaboration come about?
I met Jason years ago, thru Jemaine, when they were making Tongan Ninja. At that stage it was meant to be a short, and by the time I joined it, it ballooned into a feature. TN was something we shot at weekends over a couple years, so quite a different experience entirely. The only responsibility I had on TN was waking up in time. DD came up in conversation, and we figured, let’s write it, see what happens. My basic pitch was this: Lost in Translation meets The Shining. But I doubt you’d watch the finished product and realise that was the idea. Come to think of it, I can probably keep that pitch up my sleeve for the next thing I write too. And the one after.
Does the movie follow a firm script or was there a lot of improvising?
There wasn’t much improvising really, but maybe there was. Depends what you expect. There was a script. Then these comic actors show up, have funny ideas, and throw lines in. But the script gets said. Improvising I think is something else, like working from an outline or a scenario, and then doing actory stuff. Certainly we didn’t say, hey, you’re a doctor, here’s a stethoscope, camera’s rolling, say what you like. That would be hell. Rhys certainly added some lines, and for me the main problem was not laughing on day one while he gave me this heavy news. Not laughing was the main issue for me a lot of the time, actually. I think with Bret, the suppository scene, every frame I didn’t laugh, got used.
How long was the actual filming time from start to finish? (Dates, please!)
The movie was filmed in about 23 days, I think. We did a lot of minutes a day.
How & where did you get your start in the entertainment business? We understand that you graduated from Uni with honors in law but you chose the entertainment industry, why?
I wish I hadn’t done law -- those years seem so important for shaping a world view -- wish i’d done something looser and creative, maybe film or theatre or acting. If you wanna do law, go into politics instead. Make change, don’t nitpick.
Tell us about the concept for the film, why a horror comedy?
Horror and comedy are similar things -- playing with an audience. I quite like being scared and I quite like laughing. Jason’s short film “Careful with that Axe” certainly convinced me he could direct horror.
The film and theatre community in New Zealand is a very close knit family. Can you elaborate on what that is like for you?
Well, I guess it is. There is one-degree of separation. Jason’s contacts really helped with all the post-production.
Did you do any improvisation on this film? Working with the cast of Flight of the Conchords, did you find that you lent yourself more to the idea of improvisation on this film?
I didn’t do much improvising. I did a lot of writing in the margin though. One scene got rewritten tons of times, til the day we shot it. I think when you’ve written this thing that has to hang together, you don’t wanna mess with many of the nuts and bolts for fear the whole thing might collapse. We did our improvising while we were scripting.
Who are your influences in film & comedy?
Well where do you begin? I don’t wanna say these are influences, that might invite comparison, but i’ll tell you who i enjoy. I really enjoy Woody Allen, loved the latest one with Larry David in it. (Saw it at Cannes, throw that in...) The Curb Your Enthusiasm where they did The Producers, that whole season’s a classic. Lots of Seinfeld. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are amazing -- I thought the Extras Christmas Special was perfect, the best film of that year, any category -- shoulda got an Oscar. Lots of shows now are funny, I went through an Entourage phase, a Weeds phase, a Californication phase, obviously the Conchords are a genius show. Garry Shandling in Larry Sanders. And stand-ups, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Mitch Hedberg, Steve Martin, Arj Barker, Eddie Izzard, Frank Skinner, Harry Hill, Bill Cosby, Ellen Degeneres, but you know, what I like, sadly, isn’t necessary whatIi can do.
What would be your preference, which do you enjoy most, acting writing or producing?
Producing is the least fun. Sounds important, but they should call it Organising, or Chores, and fewer people would want to do it. Writing is very hard. Ask anyone. When it goes well, stand-up is the best. But when it sucks, it sucks the ass out of a black hole.
What was the worst job you had prior to your acting roles?
Writing the screenplay. I haven’t really had terrible jobs -- menial jobs, like washing cars at a rental place, working at McDonalds, but i didn’t hate those jobs. Remember, a job you hate is simply a job you haven’t met yet.
If you could pick someone from the movie industry, past or present, who would you most like to meet or work with?
Well that’s impossible. Leonard Nimoy springs to mind though, I used to be a mega-Trekkie. Loved the first two Star Wars films, the real first two, from the 70s. Loved the Godfathers, the first two. Spielberg -- I’d love to drop that name. Even if Steven isn’t their first name -- I just wanna be able to say, hold on, I have a call from Spielberg.
If you weren’t making movies what would you rather be doing?
What is the one question you would like me to ask you?
The meaning of life?
Raybon Kan Must List:
Book: Impro by Keith Johnstone
Music On my Ipod: Sarah McLachlan this second.
Latest Movie: Whatever Works (Woody Allen)
Television: Band of Brothers
Video Game: Does Scrabble count?
Tech Gadget: Vibrator
Also a few more questions that were asked by a fair number of people
Will the film be screened at any film festivals in the US? Or elsewhere?
i would love it to be at festivals. and i would love to show up as well.
Will Diagnosis Death be released in the US? If yes, will it include commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, etc? When can fans expect it?
Yes it’s coming out in the US, not sure when.
How did casting Bret McKenzie against type for the evil doctor come about? What about the involvement of Jemaine Clement and Rhys Darby in the film?
We just thought, if they’re available, put them in. But give them something different to Conchords. Like Jemaine, he did Eagle vs Shark, with Loren, where they were both dowdy characters. So we had him and Loren be rich and beautiful and powerful. Rhys we made extremely competent. And Bret, well, we gave him this edge that makes you not sure about him. But audiences just have so much affection for them, they’re so charismatic, it works as long as you give them something to do, something clear.
How much was the budget for the film and how long did it take from script to finish?
I am not permitted to disclose this information. either that, or i don’t know it. i’m not even sure how long it took to write and i was there. me and jason spent a lot of time outlining, in cafes and pubs, that was hard, and once we had the entire story, we wrote the screenplay. it took ages. but compressed. we filmed it the year we had the idea.
What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to? Any upcoming book, movie, tv appearance &/or radio appearances?
I’m doing a stand-up show in Edinburgh, Spermbank Millionaire. Women and men will love it. And mature children.
And a few more questions from Sherry
People have pretty much covered the Diagnosis: Death questions so I’d like to ask a few non DD ones.
You’ve recently moved to London. Is this a long term move and what do you hope to achieve career wise being based here? Did you visit London before moving here or was it one of those blind moves and you just hoped you’d like it?
This was a blind move, really -- i had some concept of london, and as a city, none of it was that appealing -- it’s not paris or the south of france -- but there’s so much comedy it felt like the place to be. hope it pans out!
I found a number of articles online in the Sunday Star Times written by yourself. How did writing for the paper come about? How do you decide upon your subject matter for each one. Is it something you choose random topics for or is there more of an organised process for what you decide to write?
I always came up with my articles, last minute, shortly after the deadline -- any newspaper, it’s too much work for other people to come up with ideas for you.
You’ve performed at a number of festivals now, which one has been the best experience overall?
I like Montreal as a festival -- it pampers you. I like that.
What superhero would you be? Or would you rather be a supervillian?
This is a great question. Come to think of it, this is my next movie. So I can’t go into it. Cos I’m gonna start writing it now.
Many thanks to Raybon for taking the time to answer questions for the fans.